There is just one simple comment to be made by me: It is an intersectional struggle.
The first time I was mistaken for a sex worker I was on my husband’s arm at an event in California four years ago. A man approached me, asking if he could buy me a drink. I declined, and he proceeded to whisper to me, “How much?”
In my naivete, I asked, “How much for what?” It wasn’t until I looked him in the eye that I understood exactly what he meant. I was speechless, angry and embarrassed. I hastily walked away while flashing the ring on my left hand, hoping to indicate that I was married. To this day, I wonder if he thought I was laying out my price.
I relived the incident in my head over and over again, almost excusing his behavior. Here I was, a tall, dark-skinned, thin, twenty-something woman on the arm of a white man in his mid-thirties. How mismatched and odd, I thought, we may have looked to some.
Our relationship now spans a decade. But that hasn’t stopped the repeated propositions a few times each year. Just last month, at another event, several male acquaintances propositioned me. Comments ranged anywhere from, “You’re on the wrong arm, sweetie, I wish I could go home with you…” to the incredibly forward, “We have this whole place to ourselves, it’ll be a shame if we don’t maximize our time here and slip away?” all said within 10 to 15 feet of my husband.
Until I began writing this piece, I never told my husband about any of these incidents because they were incredibly humiliating. I am not alone. This has happened to dozens of my friends and colleagues.